Glynn Evans lists why only a fool would forfeit tuning in to tonight's epic WBO lightweight quarrel, live on BoxNation.
1) Manchester versus Liverpool
Save for the confines of Lancashire cricket, there is little to unite these habitually warring north-west powerhouses.
Whether it’s footy, fashion, fighting, music or the ‘soaps’, the proud inhabitants of both super cities steadfastly refuse to concede anything to their less than neighbourly neighbours.
Fistic feuding can be traced to collisions in the north-west stages of the national amateur competitions and festers through Central Area, national and now global tiffs, in the pros.
Both strongholds have nurtured a plethora of ring greats – reference Conteh, Hodkinson, Hatton, Fury – and both Flanagan and Mathews will be eager to advance towards that elevated list by sizzling on a show billed as ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.
With Flanagan reputedly bringing a 500 strong congregation up the M62, expect the atmosphere to be venomous.
2) Follow the Fairytale
Ring romantics can’t help but be captivated by Mathew’s rollercoaster ride into a world championship ring.
Formerly a Junior Olympic and Senior ABA champion in his teens, the Boxing Writers’ Young Boxer of the Year for 2007 has tumbled nine times in 49 paid gigs but that’s indicative of his desire to duel ‘all comers’ as it is any shortcoming.
‘Dirty Derry’s’ enormous popularity in the witty city is not accidental. Despite the ominous fight ‘handle’, he has served the sport impeccably for 23 years paid and unpaid and today gives back through his academy and the Derry Amateur Boxing Club.
After stints on the British, Commonwealth, International, and ‘interim’ world thrones, he finally lands on the big stage in his 50th spat, on home turf, against a dreaded Manc. You couldn’t script it better!
3) Catch a Shooting Star
Manc monarch Flanagan is presently someway from the best known of Britain’s plethora of world champions but he’s fast attaining consideration as our best fighter. Suddenly, trade insiders, pundits and fans are all starting to hop on board the ‘Turbo Express’.
The former scaffolder from Ancoats - who succeeded in barely half of his 60 amateur starts -is a triumph for application and dedication. He mastered his craft in the gymnasium and northern small halls – away from the TV glare – before snaring English, Prizefighter, British, Inter-Continental and latterly, world honours in swift succession.
A tricky, tenacious southpaw, he is already ranked second in the world by both Boxing News and Boxing Monthly and, just 26, still has plenty of room to grow.
His unblemished 29 fight CV includes two round beastings of leading Yanks Jose Zepeda and Diego Magdaleno. Matched ambitiously, his blue collar charm could see him emerge into a mega draw at northern arenas, possibly even stadiums.
Both of Saturday’s principals are lauded for allowing their flailing fists to articulate for them. However for once, perhaps because of the proximity, a bit of ‘edge’ has surfaced throughout the build-up.
Flanagan has broken the gymnasium omerta to crow about how, as a rising pro, he schooled Mathews when deployed as a sparhand. In riposte, old master Mathews simply scoffs that he used gym duels to fine tune his game rather than win rounds.
The Manc cites how he dropped and decisioned Derry over a three round 2012 Prizefighter sprint but the Mersey man counters that he entered nursing cuts.
Talk of Terry’s tendonitis – which caused a month delay – has been dismissed as tall tales by Team Mathews who instead accuse Flanagan of scoffing too many flans over Christmas!
All will be resolved between the four ropes on Saturday.
5) To the Victor, the Spoils!
Victory will not only deliver inter-city bragging rights.
Whoever triumphs can expect to handsomely fill their pockets in salivating shootouts against the cream domestically and internationally.
Top of the pile is a potential superfight with Manchester’s WBA emperor Anthony Crolla – provided the ‘Million Dollar’ man sees off Ismael Barrosa in May – that could grace a soccer stadium in the north-west this summer.
Edifying and easy to make defences against world rated stablemates Liam Walsh and Adrian Gonzalez would also fatten the wallet.
The mega money, of course, lies across The Pond where a tussle against Puerto Rico’s superstar – in – waiting Felix Verdejo would guarantee a long and comfortable retirement, regardless of outcome.